Adam Duvall

Ex-Giants slugger Adam Duvall still hitting for power in new Braves home

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USATSI

Ex-Giants slugger Adam Duvall still hitting for power in new Braves home

ATLANTA -- It has slowed over time, but for a couple of years, Adam Duvall was The One Who Got Away for much of the Giants' fan base.

An organization that's had decades of trouble developing homegrown outfielders traded Duvall to the Reds and watched him hit 64 total homers in 2016 and 2017, and make an All-Star team. Duvall was far from Oracle Park, but as he broke through in Cincinnati, he was aware that fans grumbled about the deal.

"I have extended family [in the Bay Area] and they would talk about it," he said Friday. "I got an opportunity with the Reds to get a lot of playing time. For being a young guy, that was good for me to get some playing time and show what I could do."

The mistake the Giants made wasn't necessarily underestimating the power -- Duvall always had hit homers in the minors, including 30 in a season with High-A San Jose. The Giants simply didn't believe he could handle left field, and with Matt Duffy at third, they included Duvall in a 2015 deadline trade for Mike Leake. They wanted more consistent starting pitching. It didn't work out that way. 

Duvall's run in Cincinnati ended last year, when the home-run power wasn't enough to make up for a .205 average and .286 OBP. But he has found a role with the Braves, starting 23 games in the outfield and posting a .863 OPS. His homer against his old team Saturday night was his ninth in 103 at-bats for the NL East champs.

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The Braves clinched Friday night against some players Duvall considered mentors. Before Friday's game, Duvall said he's grateful for the work the Giants did in preparing him for the big leagues. He pointed to Buster Posey and Ryan Vogelsong -- who is coaching with the Giants this weekend -- as two former teammates who were particularly helpful. 

"That was a big, big part of my career when I first got introduced to playing in the big leagues," Duvall said. "They were a very professional group."

Adam Duvall might have paved way for young Giants outfielders

Adam Duvall might have paved way for young Giants outfielders

SAN FRANCISCO — As Adam Duvall put together an All-Star first half for the Reds, some of his biggest fans were in the organization that traded him away. Over and over again, Giants officials insisted that they were rooting for Duvall, one of the few prospects to get away from the organization and find success elsewhere. 

First and foremost, there’s a personal connection. Duvall spent parts of six seasons with the Giants, developing relationships with coaches, scouts and executives who want to see him succeed. There’s a business aspect to this, too. The Giants rarely have players near the top of prospect lists, but as general manager Bobby Evans gets into trade discussions, it helps to be able to point to prospects like Duvall who proved to be big league contributors. 

The Giants shipped Duvall to Cincinnati in 2015 to try and plug a hole in the rotation. Mike Leake came over and got hurt, and he never made much of a difference for the Giants before departing in free agency. A year later, Duvall hit 33 homers for the Reds and was named a Gold Glove finalist. As the Giants discuss replacements for Angel Pagan, Duvall’s name is never far from mind, but not because a return is in play. 

“It’s a reminder,” Evans said. “It’s a reminder. What he accomplished is not incredibly different than what he accomplished in the minors (for the Giants). If you don’t give guys opportunities, they can do it somewhere else.”

Duvall’s emergence could benefit two players who came up right behind him in the system. Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker are the frontrunners for the left field job, with the Giants preferring right now to remain on the periphery of talks for big-name free agents. They have been repeatedly mentioned as a possible home for Yoenis Cespedes, but that is mostly just chatter coming from East Coast writers looking for teams with the lineup opening and budget to pry Cespedes away from the Mets.

The focus is firmly on the bullpen, as it was in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, when Evans sought Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Mark Melancon and others. Back then, team officials quietly raved about the work Williamson and Parker were doing for a team that looked headed for a division title. 

Williamson, 26, slugged .528 with four homers and a .371 on-base percentage in July. He posted a .899 OPS that month after breaking through a bit in June. Parker made 24 starts in the first half when Hunter Pence went down to an injury, getting on base at a .365 clip and hitting five homers. The Giants already knew what kind of power potential he had; the left-handed slugger hit six homers in 40 September at-bats in 2015.

At midseason, Giants officials could easily picture turning left field over to Williamson, Parker or both in 2017. Then, the second-half collapse happened. At the GM Meetings in Phoenix last week, Evans said the teamwide slump “is not lost on us” as the front office searches for offseason improvements. Williamson got hurt and Parker went cold with limited playing time. Neither was able to contribute to a lineup that hit just 55 homers after the break, ranking the Giants 14th out of 15 National League teams. 

“That puts more pressure on us to look at power options (this offseason),” Evans said. “But at the same time, those are two guys who are power options and they’re ready to graduate.”

Duvall had a similar pedigree. He hit 30 homers in High-A in 2012 and 17 in Double-A in 2013. In 191 Triple-A games for the Giants, he hit 53 homers. Duvall came up as a third baseman, and the Giants traded him in part because they did not believe in the glove. They did not realize he could be such an impact left fielder, but that job wasn’t open anyway, with Pagan locked into a four-year deal that expired at the end of the 2016 season. 

It all led to Duvall getting an opportunity elsewhere. What he did with it might pave the way for Williamson and Parker to get a similar shot with the team that drafted them.